ISO 14001 Consultants have varying abilities and experience. In fact, environmental consulting is an unregulated industry within Australia. This means anyone can call themselves an Environmental Consultant or Environmental Auditor without appropriate experience or qualifications.
All too often, when an organisation develops an environmental management system, they don't check that the individual responsible for its development is appropriately experienced at system development and environmental risk management.
When engaging an ISO 14001 Consultant for the development of an environmental management system, an organisation should really consider whether the individual has:
A good understanding of environmental legislation and its application;
A thorough understanding of environmental risk and its management;
Experience developing environmental improvement programs based on industry best practice; and
Experience developing easy-to-use and effective environmental management systems.
When an organisation engages an inexperienced Environmental Consultant, or a Quality or OHS Consultant, or utilises an internal employee without these skills, all too often the environmental management system developed:
Doesn't bring about any financial or environmental benefit when implemented;
Doesn't address legal compliance requirements;
Isn't easy to understand and isn't logical; and
Is overly complicated and time consuming for employees (and when written poorly can even disengage your employees).
Let's face it, inadequate environmental management systems are still exposing the organisation to legal non-compliance, prosecution, public outrage and clean-up costs. You only have to review ISO 14001 certified organisations which have been prosecuted by your EPA to realise that these organisations have inadequate environmental management systems.
Engaging the right ISO 14001 Consultant
To assist your organisation choosing an appropriate ISO 14001 Consultant your organisation could consider assessing the following attributes:
Whether they have formal environmental management qualifications e.g. degree qualified majoring in environmental management;
Whether they have developed environmental management systems for other organisations and are able to provide references;
Whether they have hands on experience implementing and maintaining EMSs within organisations;
Whether they are an Exemplar Global (previously known as the RABQSA) certified Environmental Auditor (or equivalent) and have audited many ISO 14001 environmental management systems, including those that are effective and those that are not;
Whether they can provide sample documentation so that you know what type of environmental management system will be developed for your organisation and whether it will be suitable;
(i.e. Review how it is constructed and if it looks illogical or overwhelming then it’s probably not suitable. Also be prepared to ask questions about the system – can they explain easily how it is constructed? This is a very good indicator of whether the Consultant has a thorough knowledge of ISO 14001 and how to develop effective and easy to use EMSs.)
Whether they are able to communicate effectively and engage you with a genuine interest for environmental management;
Whether they have adequate environmental management experience covering a broad range of topics; and
Whether they are familiar with your industry.
Additionally when engaging a Consultancy as opposed to an Independent Environmental Consultant consideration could be given to checking whether the individual who will be developing your EMS has the skill set outlined above. Also be aware of experienced Consultants delegating responsibilities for its development to junior and less experienced employees.
The benefits from having an effective EMS are enormous and choosing the right ISO 14001 Consultant to assist your organisation can be vital to its success.
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